The Musings of a Wannabe Intellectual

The Colours of Aboriginality by Anita Heiss (1996)

I’ve been called Vegemite,
And Coco Pops too.
I’ve been called Chocolate Drop,
I tell you its true.

The colour of my skin
is a cause for concern
To all those whitefellas
Who simply must learn…

That Aboriginality 
Is something that’s inside
It’s not based on skin colour
And it’s nothing you can hide.

It’s something very personal
Like being a woman and a man
It’s something you feel
And only an Aborigine can.

And yes we come in all shades
Black, Brown or White,
That is something that’s bound to
Give some a fright.

Yes I’m standing next to you.
With orange hair.
Don’t you go lookin’
There’s no need to stare.

I’m just another blackfella
Who doesn’t fit the bill.
I know you find it hard
To swallow that pill.

But it really is something
That comes from within
And it’s like the difference between
Being a her or a him.


I Have a Dream?

What is now referred to as the “I Have A Dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr. was first spoken to an audience on this day (8/28) 50 years ago. It is widely recognized as “one of the greatest speeches of all time” and while I am, personally, not prepared to dispute this (or research it with any depth), I do wonder when and who decided this…

I went to the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington this past weekend (8/24) and I was not struck for a single moment that I was experiencing a “greatest speech/ historical” moment. Did the audience at the original March on Washington know they were witnessing a great historical moment? Does anyone ever know they are? Or is it only when we long back on something that we recognize its greatness?

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom: 50 years on…


This year is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (August 28, 1963). There seems to be a flood of information about the event, its legacy (especially King’s speech) and a wide array of commemorative publications (e.g. Time magazine) and events (Washington DC – wow). Last weekend I attended a forum hosted by the JFK library and I will be attending the commemorative march this weekend (August 24, 2013) with the NAACP. So I’m going to hold off on my own commentary until after the March.

But I will say this; this month has allowed for deep reflection on how far we have come, or rather how little. The entire march has become about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his Dream – which is an incredible piece of rhetoric (however, at times, misinterpreted), instead of the nature and demands of that march, instead of the other speeches presented that day. I think it would be better to look to the organizer A. Philip Randolph to interpret this historically significant event, and our failure to take up the challenge. 

But this civil rights revolution is not confined to the Negro, nor is it confined to civil rights for our white allies know that they cannot be free while we are not.

The March on Washington is not the climax of our struggle, but a new beginning not only for the Negro but for all Americans who thirst for freedom and a better life.

Read A. Philip Randolph’s entire address at the March on Washington here. Or, listen here

Watch the forum about the 50th Anniversary (which I highly recommend, it only for Elaine Jones’ powerful statements) here.



African American Documentaries

Well dear readers, I have been watching a lot of documentaries lately (the product of waiting to go back to work) so I thought I would share the one’s I have seen and my thoughts with you. However, the list alone is a multi-page word document (when I commit, I commit; Oops) so I will start with the list of African American specific documentaries and go from there:

4 Little Girls (1997)

A Man Named Pearl (2006)

A Question of Color (1992)

A. Philip Randolph: For Jobs & Freedom (1996)

African American Lives (2006)

African American Lives 2 (2008)

BaadAssss Cinema: A Bold Look at 70s Blaxploitation Films (2002)

Black Is – Black Ain’t: A Personal Journey Through Black Identity (1995)

Black on Black (1968)

Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin (2002)

By River, By Rail (1998)

Chester Himes: A Rage in Harlem (2009)

Chisholm ’72: Unbought & Unbossed (2004)Citizen King (2004)

COINTELPRO: The FBI’s War on Black America (2009)

Color Adjustment (1991)

Crisis in Levittown (1957)

Dorothy Dandridge: An American Beauty (2003)

Ethnic Notions (1986)

Eyes on the Prize Series (1987)

Freedom Riders (2009)

Good Hair (2009)

Hoop Dreams (1994)

Jazz (2001)

Malcolm X: Make It Plain (1994)

Prom Night in Mississippi (2009)

Racism in America: Small Town 1950s Case Study

Reconstruction: The Second Civil War (2004)

Roads to Memphis: the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. (2010)

Scottsboro: An American Tragedy (2005)

Slavery by Another Name (2012)

Soul Food Junkies (2012)

Soundtrack for a Revolution (2009)

Strange Fruit (2002)

The Abolitionists (2013)

The Black List: Volume 1 (2008)

The Black List: Volume 2 (2009)

The Black List: Volume 3

The Black Power Mixtape, 1967-1975 (2011)

The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords (1998)

The Black Wall Street

The Central Park Five (2013)

The Loving Story (2011)

The Massachusetts 54th Colored Infantry (1991)

The Murder of Emmett Till (2003)

The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow (2004)

Underground Railroad: the William Still Story (2012)

Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson (2005)

Wattstax (1973)

We Shall Overcome (1988)

When the Levees Broke (2006)

With All Deliberate Speed (2005)

50 Shades of Black

Watch this space.50shades-poster-cropped

 Check out their ebook: Mackey, Carlton. “50 Shades of Black Vol. 1.” v1.0. Carlton Mackey, 2013. iBooks. On the iBookstore:


And think about these questions,

How do you identify? Racially? Culturally?
What makes a person black? What makes you black?
Upon first meeting you, what do people usually assume about your identity?
Do people question your blackness?

Obsessed with Soujourner Truth…

Ain’t I A Woman?
Delivered 1851
Women’s Convention, Akron, Ohio

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.

African American History: A Love Story

I guess I’ve always been an ‘all-or-nothing’ kind of person. I have this intensity about me, a tendency to either throw myself into something or disappear. I threw myself into university to such an extent that I didn’t even realise what was happening until it had happened: I fell in love with African American history slowly and then all at once. It was all consuming. It was all I thought about, all I did, all I wanted to do, I could link (and still can) anything back to it.

To be honest, I think I loved my lecturer, and the masterful way I was introduced to history, before I loved history (and he did essentially groomed me to progress the way I did, to such an extent that I still catch myself doing things that are inherently him; a habit I am desperately trying to break now that my interests, methodologies, and ideologies diverge so deeply). Regardless, I have this thing… I vividly remember every moment in my life when I realise I *really* love something; the day I fell in love with music I was at a school assembly. I was twelve years old and some seniors played the acoustic version of ‘Layla’ by Eric Clapton and I was a goner. I could tell you about the smells, the people who surrounded me, etc., but that’s not the point. The point is, I can do the same with African American history.

Unsurprisingly, it is linked to my love of music. It was the day before my 20th birthday and the lecture opened with Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’; our subject was civil rights in the Kennedy era. It’s a story we are all familiar with, Martin Luther King was leading a movement in the South, Freedom Rides took place, and sit-ins were happening left, right and centre. This was also the very week I first saw the Eyes on the Prize episode about the movements in Albany, GA, and Birmingham, AL. It was a perfect alignment; I was in love.

Recently I have had to talk to a bunch of students about my adventures in education-land. It has been a bit of a challenge. This is the only way I know how to explain how I’ve gotten to where I am; I fell in love and it consumes me… I do what I do because it makes me happy, so happy that the thought of doing anything else never even occurred to me. It’s not the inspirational story people want to hear but it is my truth. #historynerd4lyf

This Week in Black History: The Birmingham Campaign

50 years ago, the SCLC and the African American citizens of Birmingham, Alabama, were in the midst of a campaign for civil rights. It culminated in some of the most memorable images of the Civil Rights Movement.

On May 2, 1963 thousands of children took to the streets to march for integration (now refered to as The Children’s Crusade). By the end of the day the children had filled the city jails. On May 3,  police commission Bull Connor commanded his police force to keep the children away from the CBD.

As the children gathered at Kelly Ingram Park the police turned fire hoses and police dogs on the protestors.

dogs fire hose







The images shocked the world and catapulted the trajectory of the Civil Rights Movement.




Additional Resources

Children and the non-violent lessons of the Birmingham Movement

Birmingham Demonstrations (Civil Rights Digital Library)

Birmingham Campaign (1963) (Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Global Freedom Struggle) 

Interview with Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth


The enduring presence of ‘passing’

I recently watched the entire PBS documentary Jazz (Ken Burns, 2000; highly recommend). It’s no secret that I’m mad for the blues and love jazz. Charlie Parker is an undisputed genius and I think the world would have less problems if more people listened to Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday – or would, at least, think a bit more deeply about their actions… But that’s not the point.

The point is my thesis topic keeps appearing! It seems as though now that I am aware of it, every time I watch or read anything African-American related my thesis topic (racial passing) appears, especially if it is considering the 1920s.

Jazz has a dynamite (and perhaps unintentional) reference to passing for white – or rather, passing for colored. The first black-run black music label, Black Swan Records embraced the anti-passing rhetoric to promote their label within the black community.


I think this advertisement speaks more to the growing black nationalism and empowerment of black people than the nature of passing itself, but then, those are the reasons passing has been neglected for so long… Regardless, it had me scrambling for the pen & paper.

Epiphany of a wannabe intellect

Dear Readers,

I disappeared again. Sorry about that… In other news, I’ve withdrawn from the honours program. Yep. Getting the lease for my apartment in Boston kind of made the reality of my circumstances hit home. I am about to embark on a HUGE adventure – just 47 days to organise, pack up and move. And I was attempting to focus ALL my energy on something due in a month.

The cost of submitting my thesis, in my opinion, was being adequately prepared for the next step. And spending quality time with the people I care about before I move overseas. I was holed up working on a thesis that I don’t have to finish to have my dreams come true, a thesis I knew was missing a little somethin’ somethin’. I was essentially pushing on to try and meet a deadline with an incredibly rushed piece of work. I had too many things going on and nothing was getting my full attention or completed properly.

I’ve decide I don’t want to keep doing something just because other people believe I need to finish what I start, that I *might* regret withdrawing. I don’t want to play it safe or toe the line of convention just because it is the easier path to follow. Life is too short to do things because other people think it’s the right thing. Sure, I might end up regretting this decision. But I KNOW I will regret focussing on work instead of friends and family.

So this is me. Blazing my own path, again. If I end up crashing and burning, at least we’ll know who to blame (and it’ll be majestic as f%*k).